Though Dalits account for more than 50% of total population of Catholics, they have not been given any important posts in Church administration. – The Hindu
Conversion from Hinduism to other religions, it is generally argued, is to escape the untouchability and caste-based discrimination inherent in Hinduism. Christianity, however, is not able to eradicate untouchability, and casteism continues to dominate both the Protestant and Catholic Church even though Dalits form the majority of the Christian population in Tamil Nadu.
Thadam Thedi, a pilot report on the status of Dalit Christians in Catholic Church, says though Dalits account for 22,40,726 of the total population of 39,64,360 Catholics, they have not been given any important posts in Church administration. Of the 18 Archbishops in Tamil Nadu, only two are Dalits.
G. Mathew, one of members of the committee that prepared the report, said in many churches, Dalits have separate cemetery and funeral carts and are not allowed to use the common road leading to the church.
In some churches, the body of Dalits are not allowed for rituals.
“Dalits in Punnaivanam, Rayappanpatti, Chithalacheri, Hanumanthanpatti, Pullampadi, Poondi and Eraiyur are fighting for their rights. Even the internationally renowned Velankannai Basilica is not an exception to the trend. The conflict in Eraiyur in Villupuram led to police firing in 2008 and now we have resolved the issue,” said Mr. Mathew, a native of the village.
‘Attracted by faith’
Fr John Suresh of Dalit Viduthalai Peravai argued that it was incorrect to say that Dalits converted to Christianity only to escape casteism and for the benefits that came with the conversion. “They are attracted by the faith. Christianity allowed them to stand on the pulpit and preach,” he contended.
He also admitted that casteism had pervaded the socio-cultural fabric of the Indian society and Christianity also had to make compromise with Brahminism.
“As a native of India, they seem to be baptised in the name of caste. In India, we have not understood the soul of Christianity,” Fr Suresh argued.
Fr Jagath Gasper Raj from South Tamil Nadu said it was incorrect to say that there was complete discrimination against Dalits in the Church though the caste mindset had its presence in the Church too.
“The Church gave them a voice and a space for their upward mobility,” he contended. – The Hindu, 6 June 2016